China has launched a campaign to vote for “heroes and role model who made outstanding contributions to the founding of China” and “100 people who have moved China since its founding”. Part of the drive is to promote patriotism on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Based on the votes for these roles models, Yunnan province made a decision to award “60 people who have made outstanding contributions to the liberation of Yunnan” and “60 people who have moved Yunnan since the founding of China”.
Prof. Cai Xitao, an eminent late botanist and founder of XTBG, is honored one of the “60 People Who have Moved Yunnan since the Founding of China”, in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the tobacco and rubber industries, and the devotion to botanical studies.
Prof. Cai Xitao (1911.04-1981.03) was native to Dongyang, Zhejiang Province. In 1930, after studying at various institutions in Hangzhou and Shanghai, Cai Xitao entered Jingsheng Botanic Laboratory in Beijing. In 1932, he conducted botanical research in Yunnan, where he collected thousands of plant specimens. In 1938, he founded Yunnan Agriculture and Forestry Plant Research Institute, which is the predecessor of Kunming Institute of Botany (KIB), CAS. In 1958, Prof. Cai Xitao led an 8-person group to Xishuangbanna to start the pioneering work of creating Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG). In 1959, XTBG came into being under his leadership.
Mr. Cai Xitao knocked open the gate to the Kingdom of Plants of Yunnan Province.
Since 1930s, Prof. Cai Xitao kept on a comprehensive and deep investigation of plant resources in Yunnan Province. He placed emphasis on the application study of plants. In 1945, Prof. Cai introduced the precious tobacco species “Mammoth Gold” from the United States of America. Through propagation, cultivation and quality control of superior seeds, new tobacco varieties suitable for Yunnan were cultivated.
Later, he organized field investigations for rubber plantation and discovered that the area from latitude 21°N to 23°N was suitable for growing rubber trees. Today, tobacco and rubber have become two of the most important economic industries in Yunnan and have contributed significantly to China’s economy.
In addition to the development of tobacco and rubber industries, Prof. Cai Xitao has made important contributions to perfume industry, cultivation and utilization of medicinal plants and protection of tropical rain forests in Yunnan province.
The discovery of Dragon’s Blood tree in Southern Yunnan is another significant contribution of Prof. Cai Xitao. Although the history of using Dragon's Blood as a medicine in China is over one thousand years, it had to be imported from other countries until the 1970s, when Prof. Cai Xitao found Dragon's Blood tree in Southern Yunnan Province. Now, a dozen of domestic pharmaceutical factories are producing the medicine with an annual output value of more than 500 million yuan ($60 million).
Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) founded by Professor Cai has now become an important research base for tropical botany and an attractive destination for tourists from both China and abroad. Mr. Zhou Guangzhao, the then president of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) once said: “Comrade Cai Xitao’s scientific spirits and patriotic passion are the spiritual treasures of the Chinese Academy of Sciences”.
Prof. Cai Xitao’s devotion to botanical research is spiritual treasures for the younger generations. “The tree of his life is evergreen”, said Mr. Xu Chi, a well-known writer of China.